It's a rare opportunity to meet important winemakers right at the start of their careers. Then again, it's rare for winemakers to arrive on the scene so obviously talented and with such a clear sense of purpose and place. Draga Zheleva and Chris Butler met while studying at the UC Davis wine program. As part of their studies, they followed harvests around the world to intern at wineries in Australia and Germany. While working harvests at Heymann-Lowenstein and Selbach Oster, Draga and Chris had something of an epiphany. Cold climate varieties like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Gruner Veltliner simply resonated for them. Upon graduating from UC Davis, they set their compass for a cold climate, and found their way to Oregon's Willamette Valley.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay might be the headline acts in the Willamette, but for Draga and Chris, the valley deserves to be known for a wider array of cool climate grapes, the sort they happen to be exceptionally good at making. They make wines with clear, sharp edges and robust aromas, and each one of their wines is a clear-eyed expression of varietal character. Their dry Rieslings are filled to bursting with citrusy lemons and stony acidity; their Gamay is elegant, fruity and cheerfully bright; Their Gewurztraminers show lush textures and a rich array of the grape's signature spices.
Somewhere along the way, they picked up a rescue German Shepherd, for whom their winery is named. 2021 was their first vintage, but we'll be hearing about their wines for years to come.